Teams don't win Super Bowls in the month of March. Often the organizations that grab the most offseason hype for their work in free agency end up disappointing the most when it is time to put it together on the field.
Of course, free agency is still a huge part of the process in building a contender, and it can be instrumental in turning a team around if used the right way.
After the first big wave of signings last month, who looks like the early winners that got the most bang for their buck?
Carolina saw a lot of core pieces from the last decade move on either forcefully or by choice. Their leaders on offense and defense are gone after quarterback Cam Newton was released, while linebacker Luke Kuechly decided to retire. Cornerback James Bradberry signed a lucrative contract with the New York Giants, defensive end Mario Addison reunited with Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane in Buffalo, and offensive lineman Trai Turner was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers.
That might not sound like a consensus winner, but overall new head coach Matt Rhule could have a surprisingly good, younger, and healthier team in 2020 despite all these departures.
Rhule and new offensive coordinator Joe Brady are bringing a lot of fresh offensive ideas from their previous collegiate jobs at Baylor and LSU, where both saw a ton of success.
To run their offense, the Panthers signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is an efficient, accurate passer who won all five starts with the New Orleans Saints in place of Drew Brees last year. The 27-year-old completed 68% of his throws with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. He got more and more aggressive down the field as he got comfortable, which bodes will in this Panthers offense.
Bridgewater was already surrounded with explosive weapons such as running back Christian McCaffrey, and wide receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. The Panthers then signed, yet, another deep-threat in wide receiver Robby Anderson to a two-year deal.
The Cardinals might not be a Super Bowl, or even playoff contender in 2020, but they are going to be fun to watch.
Kliff Kingsbury's air-raid offense featuring second-year quarterback Kyler Murray was already going to be a fascinating experiment to continue to follow. Then they reaped the benefits of, yet, another bewildering Bill O'Brien trade, acquiring elite wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans for just a second round pick, an additional fourth round pick, and running back David Johnson.
Add defensive tackle Jordan Phillips to the mix on defense and it is safe to say that the Cardinals were winners in March.
Signing Tom Brady is going to make the Buccaneers a winner in free agency even if he is 42-years-old.
The 7-9 Buccaneers were severely held back by Jameis Winston in 2019. He threw for over 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, but his 30 interceptions cost Tampa Bay any hopes of making the playoffs. They were in the race late in the season with a four-game win streak in December to set them up with a 7-7 record. However, the Buccaneers dropped their final two games, once again, thanks to Winston throwing the ball to the other team.
Brady should be able to get the most out of what Winston couldn't. That includes a defense filled with stars on every level, a proven offensive mind in head coach Bruce Arians, and an elite wide receiver tandem featuring Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
2019 wasn't the same elite season Brady is used to, and he certainly isn't at 42 what he was at 28. But the six-time Super Bowl champion still threw for 24 touchdowns to just eight interceptions with a lackluster group of weapons on offense.
Expect Tampa Bay to be a legitimate contender in the NFC next year.
Gotta end with the hometown team. There might not be another playoff team from 2019 that improved as drastically as Buffalo did.
Of course, trading for a star in wide receiver Stefon Diggs was the big ticket item. It gives Josh Allen a legitimate WR1 who joins John Brown and Cole Beasley to form the best wide receiver trio in the entire NFL. It really does feel like Diggs was the missing piece on offense.
So the offense looks like it could take a huge step in 2020, and while the defense was a top unit in the league last year, don't be surprised if they are even better as well next fall.
Adding Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson, and Vernon Butler on the defensive line is an upgrade over who they lost in Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips.
Early on in the offseason, it looks like the Bills could be on the verge of becoming a real championship contender. Especially with Brady finally out of the AFC East for the first time in two decades.